My father, who will be dead in seven months,
and my mother are renewing their vows

 

in the nineteenth-century New England church
they married in, thirty-eight Octobers back.

  

The few of our small family are there,
my brother, my father’s sister, her friend,

 

 a couple of cousins. My mother, smiling
almost shyly, it seems, has yet to take

  

her eyes off my father, who stands there trembling
a little, partly from the tumor, partly

 

 from emotion which the tumor’s location
has only exacerbated these days.

  

I would like my father to return
my mother’s gaze, but he is staring off

 

in another direction, his shoulders
perceptibly shaking, past the minister,

 

past the altar, as if he doesn’t have to
look at my mother to know that she is there,

 

and will be there. Even as he speaks his part
his eyes are somewhere else, some far corner,

 

and he is waiting there until, at last,
her hand reaches his for the final passage

 

of the ceremony, before the book
closes and there are no more words to repeat.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 Number 5, on page 34
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